Fostering the Anthropological Imagination: The work of Frances and Howard Morphy

Saturday, Nov. 17, 2:00 PM - 3:45 PM
San Jose Convention Center, MR 212 D
Cosponsored with the Council for Museum Anthropology

For four decades Frances and Howard Morphy have conducted ethnographic and ethnolinguistic research with Indigenous people in Arnhem Land (Australia). They work together and independently advancing an ethnographically nuanced understanding of the relationships between Yolngu and non-Yolngu society, and on the resulting changes that have occurred in Yolngu society over time. Their broad engagement with our discipline, has been particularly influential through their focus on art, museums, visual anthropology, social construction of race, critical evaluation of sovereignty, and on the theory and emergent nature of cross-cultural categories. Their involvement in visual and museum anthropology, land claims, census data collection, and e-research reflect their multifaceted roles in engaging with anthropological theory while making research accessible to wider audiences. Reducing the gap between research process and outcomes, their work has helped create a better understandings in how our futures are (dis)entangled. They have also inspired new lines of inquiry and challenges to foundational assumptions about creative processes and sovereignty in a range of ethnographic studies. Change in the Anthropological Imagination is a fitting call to recognize Frances and Howard Morphy’s work and their legacy through their many years teaching at Oxford University, University College of London and the Australian National University. Their partnership has created a generous and thought-provoking environment for their colleagues and students alike.

The papers presented in this session will champion one of the different sub-fields of anthropology that the Morphys have contributed to. Each will address in depth some of their contributions while thinking about how the Morphys’ work models what anthropology is and could be. Doing so the session will explore the legacy of the Morphys as one that positions cross-cultural interaction at its core, as well as the ongoing issue of translation and societal change over many scales (individual, household, community, and region) and mediums (art, digital and language). Discussants will engage not only with the presentations but also with the wider contributions of Frances and Howard Morphy’s works on and within anthropology and beyond.

Presenters: Veronica Strang, Durham University; Fred Myers, New York University; Annick Thomassin, Australian National University; Joshua Bell, Smithsonian; Corinne Kratz, Emory University; Marcus Banks, University of Oxford; Francoise Dussart, University of Connecticut